Who will be covering the emergencies in the city? That was the main question for lots of Tompkinsville residents after the special called City Commission meeting on Monday, Aug. 19.
Within the past few days, two-thirds of the City’s police force turned in their resignations with only four full-time officers left on the schedule to cover all emergency calls and policing the City 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
According to one officer, who wished to remain anonymous, seven of the city’s 11 officers resigned with most having effective dates of Sept. 1. Two officers noted they would work part time for the time being. Officers resigning included: Assistant Chief Channing Cain, Tyler Shaw, Ricky Shirley, Ty Hammer, Richard Shirley, Jesse England and Kenny Hagan. Officials note that Hagan was taking disability retirement.
(Editor’s note: Later it was pointed out that three of the officers requested to go part-time, but requested limited hours.)
Officers remaining on full-time include Police Chief Jeff Denhard, Jordan Page and Kerry Denton. Codie Ford is also an officer, but will be leaving for the police academy soon, according to the officer and due to the fact he is not certified, he cannot work a shift alone.
Due to policy, city officers must be certified – or may work before they obtain certification as long as they complete the 22-week academy in Richmond.
The resignations of the majority of the officers are due to the fact that new mandates were being put into place by Mayor Scotty Turner in order to cut expenses for the City.
These included, the officer said, cutting all overtime for officers and taking the schedule down to only have one officer on duty at all times.
“In the first place, it’s bad that officers must have second jobs to pay their bills.
the officer said.
Tompkinsville Police Dispatcher Gabbi Hagan approached the Commission during the meeting and asked to read a statement concerning the matter. (That statement is reprinted in its entirety within this publication-printed below this article.)
Following Hagan’s speech, Mayor Turner asked Commissioners if anyone had a comment on the matter.
Commissioner Anita (Hamilton) Bartlett, who serves as the Commission contact for the police department, responded. “I look out for ya’ll (speaking to several officers present at the meeting) and I appreciate everything you do. I have talked with (former Chief) Brian Coffelt and I have heard rumors from many people – from young cops wanting to be bullies to having sex with young girls.”
She continued, “I am behind you all the way, but I keep hearing these things and it is time some of these young cops step up and be men. I’ve had five or six people telling me the same story.”
“I didn’t know we had any to leave,” speaking of the resignations of the officers, “A lot of stuff goes on that I don’t know about.
“If someone can do better (as the Commissioner overseeing the police department), they are welcome to it.”
At that time, Assistant Chief Cain responded, “We were told by the City Attorney not to talk about it.”
City Attorney Richard Jackson then spoke up and replied that that conversation was best left for closed session. Mayor Turner noted he was abstaining from comment about the matter.
At that time, the public (including police officers, emergency medical personnel and dispatchers) were asked to leave the room as the Commission went into closed session.
Over four hours later, the Commission came back with Commissioner Tena Cain leaving the meeting during the lengthy private session. Rumors swirled throughout town that Cain had resigned, yet no official resignation had been submitted at press time. The remainder of the Commissioners – Tommy York, Beth Cross and Bartlett, returned to open session.
According to City Attorney Richard Jackson, the following actions were taken following the closed session:
_ Moved Richard Shirley to part time at his request;
— Moved Ricky Shirley to part time at his request;
— Moved Tyler Shaw to part time upon his request;
— Accepted the resignation of Jesse England;
— Accepted the resignation of Kenny Hagan, due to disability retirement;
— Accepted the resignation of Ty Hammer; and
— Accepted the resignation of Assistant Chief Channing Cain.
Contacted by the News through an open records request, Mayor Turner had the following comment:
““I’ve always said that I will never discourage anyone from taking steps to do what they believe is best for themselves and their families.
“While the timing of so many employees leaving at the same time appears alarming, it’s just very coincidental the way this has happened. The individuals who have left the Police Department all believe that they are doing what is in the best interests of them and their families at this time.
“I’m proud of our police department and our officers and I don’t want to see any of them go. But I also encourage them to do whatever it is that makes them happy,” Turner concluded.
Also during the meeting, Commissioners:
— presented Hazardous Materials Operations/OSHA Level 11 certificates;
— heard from Chief Denhard that Kerry Denton had completed Resource Officer training and noted he had been very valuable as a liaison between the schools and law enforcement;
— discussed and tabled most other items on the lengthy agenda including CPR training, t-shirt and badges purchases, quotes for floor mats for City Hall, the IT contract, lawnmower payments, the possibility of charging businesses which need new meters installed and fees to be charged;
— heard from Jonathan Shaw of the water department that a water leak had been fixed on Dowell Drive;
— heard that the recycling department is still having issues with too many items in recycling bins that cannot be taken into the recycling system
— heard that the City may be able to receive discretionary funding for paving projects;
— heard updates for the 2019 budget; and
— approved $4,096.20 in materials and $3,456 in labor for an addition at the recycling plant for an office for the gas department employees.
Dispatcher speaks to Commission
For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Gabbi Hagan. I’m a dispatcher at the Tompkinsville Police Department. I am not a public speaker, usually I am behind the mic, so I wrote down what I wanted to say instead.
I mean no disrespect when I say this, but everyone on this board works regular jobs. Day shift. 5 days a week. Regular hours. Holidays off. Profit-oriented. The “work is work, home is home” kind of jobs, which is great. All of the city employees, typically, fall into that category, with the exception of those at the PD, which is the reason I’m standing in front of you. I just want take a few moments to try to get you to understand that, regardless of the financial situation the city is in, there is nothing typical about the job of our officers, and you can’t treat it the same as the other departments of the city, because in doing so, you compromise officer safety. These guys are truly my brothers, and they deserve someone to defend them as fiercely as they defend this city. Chief Denhard and Chief Cain have worked incredibly hard to make officer safety the top priority. Two officers on per shift. Take home cars. Necessary overtime to make sure an officer ALWAYS has back up. Decent pay to make sure that they can recruit competent and qualified additions to our team. All of it has a purpose. They aren’t luxuries that the guys are trying to take advantage of; they are necessities to give our guys the best chance of making it home to their families after every shift.
Here are some stats for you: there were 55 felonious officer deaths in 2018, meaning they were maliciously killed while trying to do their job. These occurred during foot pursuits, traffic stops, interacting with wanted people, domestic disputes, and even simple disturbance calls, to name a few. These are calls our officers respond to every single day. Over half of those deaths were in southern states. Kentucky had 6 LOD deaths alone last year. 51 of those 55 police officers were shot (and that was prior to KY’s new “anyone can carry” law.) This is the south, where everyone has a gun.
Yes, they may have ballistic-resistant vests, but they are still not bulletproof. Those vests cover the torso, which is only 36% of the body’s surface area, leaving 64% of the body exposed. Did you know that if an artery is hit, it takes approximately 2-5 minutes for someone to bleed out? Moreover, did you know that there are approximately 20 major arteries in the body and that only 4 of those are covered by a vest, leaving 16 exposed. When there are 2 officers on duty, the response time for emergency backup, in my experience, is under a minute. That’s fast enough to do something about it. If no one else is on duty, that officer has no chance. That’s the situation YOU are putting our guys in, as if the job isn’t dangerous enough itself. You can’t keep the bad guys from shooting, but you can make sure that our officers have the personnel and resources to respond when it does.
To the mayor and the commissioners, excluding Commissioner Cain, because I know as the mother of an officer, she is not supporting these decisions that are being made: the ones of you that are stripping these things away from our guys are crippling this department. You’ve lost 7 officers and a dispatcher since your personnel meeting, and the night is still young. Our department now only has 3 certified officers and 1 officer in training left to protect and serve this city. That’s 4 officers to cover shifts 24/7. 4 officers, which inevitably means only one officer on a shift. You told an already understaffed department that you weren’t going to hire anymore officers, but you don’t want anyone to have overtime. You want the city patrolled and drunk drivers off the roads, but our fuel bills are a problem. You want big drug busts to take place and drugs taken off the streets, but you expect our guys to approach these people and circumstances with no backup. You all, as well as the rest of the city of Tompkinsville, want the fastest possible response times to your emergencies, as well as all the resources available to you, but their take home car privilege is being threatened. You want them to run toward the danger and risk their lives to protect yours, but you’ve taken away their hazardous duty retirement. What happens when you need an officer and the one on duty is tied up with another call? What happens if, God forbid, something happens to one of our guys, and I can’t get a hold of anyone who is off duty to send to them? That 2-5 minutes passes extremely fast. I’ll know that I did everything I could to get them aid, but if they don’t make it home because they were alone, that’s on you. You can be the one to tell their wives and kids and parents that their officer isn’t coming home because you thought you could save a dime, at the expense of their safety. They’ve done all you’ve asked up to this point, but they are done, and I can’t blame them at all. 7 officers have put in their resignation, and it all could be avoided if you would simply make their safety a priority.
To close, I’ll leave you with this quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” These guys are already running toward the danger, toward all the situations that other people run away from. They face the evil in the world head on. Please, don’t make them do it alone. We had 11 guys. Now we have 4. I would die for any of them, just like they would die for you. They know the risks that come with the job. These guys are sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, and friends to people who love them and need them to come home after their shift. None of them are here for the money; they all have another at least one other part-time job. I know none of you would ask your child to go into these situations alone. Please don’t ask my guys to do it either. I’ve had to be on the other side of the mic at other departments when an officer desperately called for backup, and there was no one to send. It is the most gut-wrenching, most helpless feeling in the world. Thankfully, I’ve never had to be in that position at the TPD, because our chiefs make sure no officer is alone. 24/7/365. Now, though, that’s a very real possibility. Sacrifice and make cuts wherever you can, but please do not let the means of officer safety be one of those places. You can fire me after this if you want, but this city needs to know that what is happening is not a reflection of Chief Denhard, Chief Cain, or our department. It’s a reflection of you all, and you are the only ones that can make it any better.